French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that French society is plagued by “racism,” but pledged that no statues in France will come down as they are part of the country’s heritage.
President Macron made the statements during an address to the nation that was broadcast on Sunday evening. It was the first time that Macron has publicly addressed the ongoing “anti-racist” violence that has plagued France and other countries across Western Europe as well as the United States since the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being taken into police custody in Minneapolis three weeks ago.
Macron said that someone’s “address, name, or skin colour” can make it harder for them to succeed in French society, and said that France needs to ensure that everyone can “find their place” despite their ethnic background. He further said that he will always remain “uncompromising” in response to racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of discrimination, according to a report by France 24.
But he also stressed that no statues in France will be removed, including those representing figures from France’s colonial era. Statues and landmarks representing historical figures and events deemed “racist” by mobs of thugs have been targeted in many countries in recent weeks, most notably in the United Kingdom where rioters in Bristol tore a statue down and threw it into the harbour while police did nothing. London Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered the statue of anti-fascist hero Winston Churchill sealed in a box last week after calls from rioters for it to be torn down, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.
Macron is taking a different approach, he indicated. “The [French] Republic will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history,” he asserted. “It will not take down any statue.”
Macron also urged people of all races to “look at all of our history together” in the pursuit of truth rather than “denying who we are.”
The President then accused some people he described as “separatists” for taking advantage of the protests for their own ends, saying that everyone in France must “unite around Republican patriotism.” He likewise said that France’s police officers, who have come under heavy criticism by “anti-racists” recently, “deserve public support and the recognition of the nation for their work.”
Hundreds of police demonstrated in Paris on Sunday night against the ongoing violence against them and the lack of support they are receiving from the government. They said that they were not reassured by the President’s words. “On the contrary,” one officer said.
There did not even seem to be unanimous support for Macron’s speech even in his own party. Sibeth Ndiaye, a government spokeswoman who is a close ally of the President, published an editorial in Le Monde on Saturday in which she said that France needs to address its colour-blind approach to politics, which attempts to deal with the problem by pretending race doesn’t exist. She also called on the French to “confront” their colonial history.
An estimated 15,000 people demonstrated again in Paris on Saturday, during which “anti-racist” protesters hurled anti-Semitic slurs at Generation Identity activists who unfurled a banner condemning anti-white racism along the protesters’ route, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.
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